AUG 22,2008 - AUG 29,2008 (8 DAYS)
This our journal of our amazing trip to Netherlands. We spent four nights in a zimmer in Heerhugowaard. From there we took daily trips. We then crossed to southern side and spend the rest of the trip there.
We landed in Amsterdam (Schiphol Airport) on 11:45. We left the airport around 13:00 with a rental car. There are also intercity and sprinter trains between Amsterdam and Haarlem Central Station almost every 10 minutes. From Amsterdam, it's a 15 minute trip, and the price is 3.80€. Taking the train from Schiphol directly, you’ll have to change lines at Amsterdam Sloterdijk. With a car the drive was about 20 minutes.
We parked in Stutionplein train station, and walked through Kruisweg street to center of town. It took us about 15 minutes to reach Grote Market. . The architecture was amazing, beautiful buildings and a medieval atmosphere…
We visited St. Bavokerk church, which is open from 10:00 till 17:00 )16:00 in the winter). The church was once a Catholic cathedral, and is built in the Gothic style. The church was originally built in the beginning of the 14th century, but was burnt and rebuilt at the end of the 15th century, and became a cathedral only in 1559. It was converted to a Protestant church in 1578. You’ll find a public toilet by the church, which is always a valuable tip in almost every location…
We left Haarelm in the afternoon, and arrived and hour later at Hencbroek, a village 4 Km east of Heerhugowaard, where we spent the night.
We stayed at the Landhuis de Leijen Bed & Breakfast (Gemaalweg 6, 1711 Rz), a very nice place surrounded by 2 hectare of meadow, with a hen, a rabbit, a sheep, ducks and a cat wondering around… they also have a Finnish sauna and a relaxation room with a fireplace for the cold days.
We visited the Zaans Museum in Zaandam (1509 Av Zaandam, Zaandijk), 13 Km north of Amsterdam. Entry fee for the museum is 9€ for adults and 5€ for children (4-17). You can also see thousand and more windmills alongside the Zaan river, or shop for some traditional dutch artifacts which are sold in the shops around. The place also offer boat cruises, but we didn’t had the time.
The next morning we went on a trip to Hoorn, a small town 35 Km north of Amsterdam. Hoorn is a historic city, founded way back in the 8th century, and became a city in the 14th century. During Holland golden age Hoorn was one of the six bases of the Dutch East India Company, and today the old harbor is a favorite spot for all kinds of water sports.
Rod Steen, the old city square, is where farmers from the area came to sell their products on the market. It’s a junction of six streets and alleys, and round it you will find old buildings like the town hall (1420), the Waag (1609) and the States College (1632). Today the market is held twice a week.
Hoorn tourist information center is located in Veemarket 44, and you can get there a lot of information about the city and the area.
There are 7 museums in Hoorn, featuring the treasures which were collected to the city during hundreds of years. We visited the Railway Museum, which has a fully operational heritage railway, with all the facilities are open to the public. We took a ride on the train, which departs from Hoorn at 11:00 daily, and passes through the country side. The train stops in the town of Medemblik, and The ticket was 18€ per person, a bit expensive but it was really nice.
We visited Radboud Castle, located in east side of the harbor. The castle was built at the end of the 13th century by Floris the 5th, count of Holland, mainly to stop the attacks of the German Frisians. The Count was murdered not long after (1296), and during the centuries the castle was neglected. In 1889 it became property of the crown and was restored to be used as a courthouse. During the second world war the Rijksmuseum hid Rembrandt's painting, “Night Watch” in the castle, before it was moved to a bunker in the dunes.
In the castle there is an exhibition of history of the castle and of Medemblik. You’ll have to climb up a spiral staircase in the wall of the tower to get to it, but it’s worth it. From there you can go down to the prison, or drink a something warm (or cold) in the coffee room of the castle.
Jordaan is one of the most famous districts of Amsterdam, maybe the whole Netherlands. It was once a poor neighborhood, but today it’s the IT place for students, artists and young go-getters...There’s a pleasant atmosphere to the neighborhood, with a mixture of styles and activities, lots of art galleries, special shops, restaurants and small cafés.
The next day we got up early and headed to Alkmaar, an historic town well known for its cheese market. The market is open every Friday (April-September), between 10:00 to 12:30, and it’s one of only four traditional Dutch cheese markets still in existence. We didn’t know it, but you can’t actually buy cheese at the market itself – only watch a demonstration of how merchants' market operated in the past.
There are a lot of medieval buildings that are still intact, the most famous of them is the tall tower of the Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk. The town takes pride in the local Beatles Museum, where we learned that John Lennon's first guitar was made in Alkmaar.
From Alkmaar we drove to Volendam, a small town known for its old fishing boats and the traditional clothes still worn by some of the people. We parked in Haven Street, and strolled down the harbor.
We had lunch in one of the local restaurants in the harbor, and the fish was excellent. I am sorry that I don’t remember the name, but they all looked pretty good to me…
In Monnickendam the kids can play in the natural pool by the marina: the water is shallow and they would like it a lot (at least ours did).
The next day we woke up early (again), and drove to Den Helder. From there we took the ferry (departure every hour) to the Island of Texel. It’s a 20 minute cruise, and you arrive at the harbor in Oudeschild.
There are a lot of activities in Texel, such as cycling, swimming and horse riding. We decided to take a trip on a fishing boat: there are 2 companies that offers such a cruise (TX 10 and De Zeester), and the whole journey is about 2 hours. Afterward we visited the Sea and Shore Museum, which the kids enjoyed a lot.
We drove to the town of Muiden, in the mouth of the Vecht River, not far from Amsterdam. This historical town dates at least as early as the 10th century, when Otto the great, the founder of the Holy Roman Empire, gave it as a present to the Cathedral of Saint Martin in Utrecht. In the beginning of the 12th century Muiden was granted some city rights by Henry the fifth. Today only about 4,000 people reside in the town.
In Muiden there is an old castle called Muiderslot (located in Herngracht 1), which is a great place to visit. It was built around 1285 by Floris the Fifth, count of Holland, and is not a UNESCO World Heritage site. We toured inside, visiting the knight’s Hall, the towers and the dungeon. The castle is open from 10:00 till 17:00, and a tour is an hour and a half.
The next day we drove to Efteling - the largest theme park in Holland and one of the oldest in the world. The park is in the town of Kaatsheuvel, and its attractions are based on ancient legends, fairy tales and folklore.A regular ticket to the park is 32€, and children under 4 get in for free.
The village of Kinderdijk is a known for its windmill system, which was built in the 18th century to drain the area. The windmills are a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. This is the largest group of old windmills in Holland, and one of the best known Dutch tourist sites. There is a windmill museum, and you can also take a carriage ride or a cruise on a boat.
The entrance to the park is free. A ticket for the museum is 6€ per adult and 4€ for kids (6-12). The canal cruise is 4.5€ for adults and 3€ for kids.
The next morning we visited the national park De Hoge Veluwe. The park covers 55 square Km, and you’ll find there a wide variety of plants and animals – some of them are extremely rare. We traveled the park on bicycles, which you can use free of charge, and visited the Kröller-Müller Museum houses, where we sew paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and others.
A ticket to the park is 8.4€, and there’s an extra charge to get in with a car.
On our last day we traveled to Rotterdam, to visit its famous zoo, “Diergaarde Blijdorp”. The zoo is located at the northwest side of the city (Blijdorplaan 8), and is considered one of the best Zoos in Europe. It has a walkthrough sea aquarium, an African Gorilla Island and a lot of other surprises...
The kids had an amazing time! A must!
A ticket to the zoo is 21€ per adult, and 16.5€ for kids (3-12). Kids under 3 years don’t need a ticket.